Oct 10 2007

Policy Galore

Published by Meg at 6:23 pm under blogging

Blog Policies

It can be argued that having formal policy statements might help build a blogger’s credibility, and set the tone for expected behaviour. I finally got around to implementing some policies this week - something that I started about two months ago! Here’s the rationale behind each:

Disclosure Policy

Obviously disclosure is a large part of any blogger’s credibility. Whilst I don’t have any paid advertising on this site, I did want to officially state my related business activities, that could affect my attitude and opinions. Generally if I write about something that I think I could be biased about, I will (continue to) state it in my posts.

I also wanted to make the point obvious that when I write about a website or service, it is not because I am receiving payment or favour for doing so, that it is merely something that interests me.

My disclosure policy was modelled on this disclosure policy.

Comments Policy

Recent discussion on “comments are king” dictated that I really did need to formalise a comments policy. I think it lets visitors know the “rules” - what is welcomed and what isn’t (it’s my blog and I’ll moderate if I want to…) .

Lorelle’s “does your blog have a comments policy?” post at Blog Herald provided a solid outline.

Privacy Policy

I suppose it never hurts to have a privacy policy. I based mine on this privacy policy generator.

Copyright Policy

When I wrote about copyright and plagiarism on blogs back in August, I mentioned Lorelle’s post on what to do when someone steals your content. In that post she recommends:

If the issue of people stealing your content doesn’t bother you, be sure and mark your website or blog accordingly with a copyright tag that says “help yourself”. Display a copyright notice, like one from , that says “free for the taking”.

If it does bother you, you can display a copyright policy notice to inform your readers that your content is yours - don’t touch. Or you can choose another copyright policy that says something between. Check out all the different copyright options at Creative Commons. They also feature small logos, like the one in the sidebar here, which designates which rights users have to use your content.

I checked out the Creative Commons options, but none of them really seemed to fit, so I just wrote a little blurb about what I consider acceptable (and this is really just basic blog etiquette).

Disclaimer

Probably a bit sad that we feel the need to issue a disclaimer. I don’t know how much weight it would hold in court, but I thought I’d record as a contingency. Again Lorelle at Blog Herald has a good writing a blog disclaimer outline.

Have you felt the need to formalise any policies on your blog?

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7 Responses to “Policy Galore”

  1. Neeravon 10 Oct 2007 at 7:13 pm

    I felt I had to set a comments policy after people started using SEO keywords for their comment name to exploit the fact that I disabled nofollow

    It has had the desired effect because now most people use their real name or nickname like I asked them to :-)

  2. Karen (Misc Mum)on 10 Oct 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Ah - good timing. In the conversion, I see I’ve lost my copyright insignia/disclosure I had on the other….I must update that.

    Plus, I know I should have policies. Its the one thing I’ve been putting off……

  3. Tim Nashon 10 Oct 2007 at 10:22 pm

    @Neerav I’m impressed most people read policies of any kind so its a double achievement.

    Its a sad state of affairs but nearly all policies are for the day after by the time you need a policy its to late so its better to cover yourself now then later. In the UK the big one is a privacy policy as the line between organisation and entity is very blurred and the DCO is unlikely to chase a blogger for failing to follow the data protection act he might chase a business (i.e a blog that earns a resonable income) if they thought you were easy pickings.

    p.s well done on the upgrade shame about the reply to comments plugin

  4. Megon 10 Oct 2007 at 11:23 pm

    Neerav - many thanks for your impetus to get the comments policy finally up and going.

    Karen - I agree, it’s taken me two months (plus) since I thought I really should do this.

    Tim - (why do I always type “time” - must be subliminal) so a privacy policy is mandated for “business” websites? Agree it’s a fine line for bloggers then.

    Thanks :) Soon I hope for the comments…

  5. Stilgherrianon 11 Oct 2007 at 7:15 am

    This is a fine orientation article. Some points to add:

    1. Legal requirements vary wildly between jurisdictions. What’s appropriate in the US or Australia (where there are relatively permissive privacy laws) may not work in, say, Europe where there are quite strict privacy laws. Always check local requirements with someone who actually knows — and be aware that even many people who’ve been “designing websites” often have no real clue about these things, or have knowledge which is woefully out of date.

    2. Make sure your policy actually matches what you’re doing and vice versa. As an example, some sites say they don’t share user data — but then use Google Analytics which is precisely sharing user data. In some jurisdictions, publishing what would be seen as a “misleading” policy can often attract larger penalties than a minor breach.

    3. Don’t choose policies which you think are “cool”, actually think about the implications. A prime example is Creative Commons licensing. Many people thinks it’s great to share your stuff freely. But if you choose the wrong license, you could find your material being used in ways you wouldn’t want. A case in point is the Texas teenager who didn’t appreciate her photo being used in advertising for Virgin Mobile. Would you like your photos used by someone who held diametrically opposite political views from your own?

    4. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. In Australia, for example, businesses under a certain size are exempt from the Privacy Act. Various common law provisions apply no matter what you write — or whether you write nothing. Newspapers don’t publish comments policies, they just publish whichever letters they want. It’s your blog, you get to publish what you want. Don’t be afraid to take control.

    5. Written polices can help prevent problems. It’s much easier to just point to your comments policy to explain why someone’s comment didn’t get published, rather than getting drawn into arguments.

    6. Beware the moderation trap. If you take on the task of moderating comments, then you can be held more liable for, say, publishing something libellous, than if you let all comments through. Though that said, as a publisher you do have ultimate responsibility for what you publish, even if someone else writes it.

    Bonus link: Your link to the privacy policy generator is American. For a nice framework for an Australian policy, see Roger Clarke’s Privacy Statement Template.

  6. Snoskredon 11 Oct 2007 at 9:51 am

    Wow, Stilgherrian left a great comment - that could have been a blog post in itself right there. ;) I’ll add that link to my own disclosure policy, I think - and check out what else should be in there re privacy.

    I had a lot of trouble with the same plugin but we worked out in the end that the preview plugin was causing the problem. Can I suggest you get rid of preview, and instead put in something like Ajax edit comments? That gives people the chance to edit their comments - thus previewing them. When we got rid of preview, subscribe to comments worked, and it is compatible with Ajax edit comments.

    Ajax Edit Comments is available here -

    Ajax Edit Comments

    So I am using Ajax edit comments and subscribe to comments on 2.3 and it works. :)

    I have a lot of the same plugins that you do, because you sent me that great list. :)

    Cheers,
    Snoskred

  7. Megon 11 Oct 2007 at 10:11 am

    Stilgherrian

    I agree with Snoskred - wow! Many thanks for those valuable pointers. 3) is why I was reluctant to use the Creative Commons. You also make a pertinent point in 6) as was alluded to in the recent 2clix case - that moderating can indicate that you “endorse” a comment. Thanks also for the “bonus” link.

    Snos (the depth of Stilgherrian’s comment reminds me of some of yours!)

    Thanks for the tip re the preview plugin. I think I did activate that before the subscribe, so will try what you suggest.